Those of us of a certain age might recall a weekly TV show where four unlikely people came together to solve problems. They were all individuals - bringing different skills to the party - and didn't always get along. But they always managed to come out on top. I'm talking, of course, about the A-Team, where Hannibal, Face, BA and 'Howling Mad' Murdoch were victorious against seemingly impossible odds. The show might not stand up to today's TV standards, but we can all learn from how that team came together.
What makes a good team?
Whenever we're running a team building workshop or senior management away day, we always ask this question. And we always get a variety of responses. But, without exception, everyone identifies a handful of key areas: communication; the ability to adapt; openness; and respect. Which begs the question; why don't all teams work well?
While all these elements are essential, there are some other characteristics that are required for teams to be truly effective. We usually draw on three models to help explore these ideas.
1. Lencioni's Five Dysfunctions (see more)
Management consultant Patrick Lencioni sets out what he calls the 'five dysfunctions of a team' to outline why teams can struggle. In his view, teams lacking trust, conflict, commitment and accountability will lack results. But addressing each of these elements will lead to positive results.
2. Google re:Work (see more)
Google re:Work has been set up to develop and share evidence-based HR practices. As part of this work, they ran statistical models to understand what had the most impact on team effectiveness. The results demonstrate that teams work best when members feel supported to take risks, can depend on others to meet deadlines, have clearly defined roles, work on tasks that are personally important and contribute to activities that matter.
3. Stanford University (see more)
Stanford's teaching on effective teams identifies a set of key characteristics, emphasising the importance of a clear purpose and common goals, shared approaches and active participation. This fosters an informal atmosphere that, in turn, encourages disagreement and constructive criticism in order to support discussion, respect and decision-making.
What do these models tell us?
The core message that we take from these models is that they move beyond a team creating the space to get along to an atmosphere that encourages conflict and disagreement. Why? Because when teams are able to air their concerns and disagree with each other, they're more likely to accept decisions and work to support their implementation. Constructive criticism also encourages openness and transparency, ultimately supporting more effective communication. And taking accountability for your own work and your contribution to the work of the team fosters greater levels of trust. Bring these elements together and you'll have something to rival the A-Team!
How we can help?
We work with teams in all sorts of different situations. Some are new, and finding ways to work together. Others have been together for some time and are struggling with one or more challenges. Still others are a combination of both. By creating time and space away from the office, we work with them to uncover their issues and jointly identify ways to resolve them. And it's more than just a talking shop. We always ask the individuals to commit to actions that they'll do when they get back to the office, to help enhance their teamwork.
It's a fantastic feeling when a group of different people come together, share ideas, challenge each other and then get the job done. And that's what great teams do. So let's all be more like the A-Team, and - not despite but because of our differences - make sure more plans come together.
If you need help to make your team more effective, then get in touch. We'd be delighted to chat about different options.